I am nothing if not passionate about what I like. One of my many loves is music, but not just any music. Because, unlike many people in my generation, I LOVE older music. (you know, stuff from 30-40 years ago that is the foundation of stuff that we enjoy now) So, while people my age are listening to bands that scream unintelligibly against walls of distorted guitars, I'm jamming to Bob Dylan. Some people don't understand my devotion to this man's music, and say things like "He can't even sing" or "I just don't understand the big deal about this guy," so, I'd like to try to explain why I love his music.
1. I think that this guy is a genius. He's written the most amazing lyrics I've ever seen. Seriously, the dude can take anything and put it in a song. Who else could write a song (Desolation Row) with Einstein, Casanova, The Phantom of the Opera, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, & Cinderella without it seeming stupid? And who else could write so many incredibly good folk songs in only a few short years? If you don't agree, then think about this, Blowin' In the Wind, The Times They Are A-Changin, Chimes of Freedom, & With God On Our Side were all written within about 3 years of each other. Not only that, but Dylan's still kickin' and writing great stuff. Don't believe me? Check out Highlands, from 1997's Time Out Of Mind and you might just change your mind.
2. Dylan is going to do what Dylan wants to do. He's not going to kowtow to what any record exec or fan wants or expects him to do. Back in 1965, everyone was comfortable with Dylan as the generation's greatest protest singer who sang accompanied by his acoustic guitar and harmonica. So, he turned the tables, went electric, and produced some of the absolute greatest rock and roll ever recorded. In only 2 years (1965-1966), he released 3 of rock's greatest albums, Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, & Blonde On Blonde. Even back in 1997, when pop would soon go the way of the boy band and teenage girl diva, Dylan not only had a top ten album with Time Out Of Mind, he also won Album of the Year at the Grammys. When he decided to write an autobiography, Chronicles, Volume 1, in 2004, he didn't even talk about some of the pivotal moments in his life that many expected him to, like his conversion to Christianity or his motorcycle accident in the late 1960's. Instead, 80 of the book's 293 pages are devoted to his 1989 album Oh Mercy.
3. He changed a lot of popular perceptions. Particularly, he changed what it meant to be a popular singer. Lots of people figured (a la Jimi Hendrix) that if he could be a singer then so could they. Also, do you think that we would have some of these unconventional bands if it hadn't been for Dylan? Would Radiohead really write the kinds of songs they do if it wasn't for Dylan?
In conclusion, I enjoy listening to Dylan because his music means something. He's not up on stage singing about how "oops I did it again," or some other such piece of junk. He's singing about things that matter, such as how real people deal with real issues. Yes, he may clothe them with impressionistic lyrics, but the message comes through loud and clear. Even if you don't understand what in the world he's talking about in Ballad of a Thin Man, (which I don't) the feeling of alienation and helplessness that Mr. Jones, the song's main character, feels is communicated easily. I hope that Bob Dylan keeps making music for many more years to come, because I want to keep hearing what this guy's got to say. And, don't even think about trying to convince me that he's not worth listening to. I know better.